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Summer Eats: Light & Easy

It’s official, summer is here! Could it possibly be better than spring? And what a great spring it was...maybe for the dandelions: cold and wet one week, blazing hot the next. This year, we received one delivery of five pounds of morel mushrooms at Willy East. This has to be a record low. I made it out once, and managed to do pretty well with the smaller black variety, but didn’t do well at all finding the larger, yellow morel. All in all, it was just too cold. Local asparagus growers generally aim to have product ready for retailers by Mother’s Day. This year, we received our first local delivery June 4th, almost a full month behind schedule. In general, farmers were estimating they were two to three weeks behind. Although the cool weather slowed things down, it did produce some exceptional early season salad items. How the extreme, erratic conditions will effect the warm weather summer crops, only time will tell!

Summer is a great time to take advantage of the warm weather and get out. Biking, camping, spending time on the water, hiking, La Fête de Marquette, Concerts on the Square, Rhythm & Booms, Atwood Summerfest, Summerfest, or just chillin’ and grillin’ with friends in the backyard; there’s something for everyone. At the Co-op, we’ve got just what you need to keep you going so you can take advantage of the season, eat well, and maximize your ability to enjoy the season’s offerings. We’ll have loads of fruit and fresh local vegetables available all summer for easy snacks and light meals that will help keep you cool and feeling good.

Summer fruit
July is a great month for summer fruit, and what’s really great about fruit is that it’s so easy. If you’re going out for the day, it’s easy to wash some up and take it along. Most whole fruits will hold up for the day without refrigeration, especially if you can keep them out of direct sun exposure. Additionally, making a delicious fruit salad is a pretty simple process, and they’re a great addition to any summer meal. And, while most of what we’re able to source comes from California, we should have a few local fruit items including melons, plums, maybe some berries, and possibly, for the first time, Door County sweet cherries. We’ve been talking with a grower who is hoping to have enough volume beyond his farmers’ market needs that he’ll be able to sell to both stores! Peaches, too! Here are a few of our summer favorites that should be in peak season for the month of July.

An obvious summer staple, grapes are easy to prep, and are a great item for kids. The California season starts picking up in July as Mexico winds down, and with moreand more growers converting acreage to organic production, supplies should be strong and priced to sell. Look for grapes to be on our Weeklies promotions throughout the month. If you’re planning on hitting the unrefrigerated trail, keeping them on the vine will help keep them fresh and crisp.

Peaches and Nectarines
Both of these travel well without refrigeration, and make for a simple, easy snack. Most of what we’ll be seeing throughout July will be California product. Our favorite label for the past couple of years has been Burkhart Organics. While most of the California grapes we see are of the “cling” variety, Burkhart has been able to ship an excellent “free stone” variety that stands up with the best Washington and Colorado peaches we get. They produce some real “chin drippers” for both peaches and nectarines. And, don’t think you need to eat them fresh; throw them on the grill.

Pluots are a cross between a plum and an apricot. They have the taste and texture of a plum, and if you haven’t tried them yet, now is the time. Pluots have one of the highest brix levels of any fruit on the market. What does that mean? It means they’re sweeter than most. If you like plums, you’re going to love these. Our favorite variety is the Dapple Dandy; it is, in our opinion, consistently the best tasting, sweetest pluot on the market. Ask a Produce staff member if that’s what on the shelf and give them a try. And, like other stone fruits, pluots are a great choice if you’re hitting the trail. Out of refrigeration, pluots should hold up for days, and get sweeter as they ripen.

July is peak cherry season, both here and in Washington. As with grapes, the increased organic acreage means better supply and pricing. Growers know many consumers often choose organic over conventional when it comes to fruit for their kids, and they’re making sure they’ve got the product to supply the demand.
As long as the weather holds out, look for cherries on our Weeklies promotions. Our favorites are the Washington Bing and Rainier varieties, and both should be in peak season by the second week of July. Locally, the Door County sweet cherry season begins in mid-July, and with a little luck, we’ll have them on our shelves. Cherries hold up well for a while out of refrigeration, and make for a great snack. The only problem is that once you start eating them, you can’t stop. And, when they’re gone, you just want more!

If we’re lucky, we might see some delicious, refreshing melon from Tipi Produce by the end of the month. Steve and his crew produce some of the yummiest melons around, and for those of you who want seeds, you’ll find them in Tipi’s melon.
Look for muskmelon near the end of the month. They tend to be the first melons to mature, and you’ll likely notice their aroma if they’re in. Steve’s got the touch, and knows how to pick them ripe and ready. Melons like it hot, so if weather permits, hopefully we’ll have some of their delicious watermelon by the end of the month to help us cool down. My favorite is the yellow doll, but they’re all delicious and great for parties, or for just sitting on the steps and spitting seeds on a hot afternoon.

On the vegetable end of the produce spectrum, we should have a good variety of locally grown organic produce available throughout the month. July is somewhat of a transitional month for crops; the cool season crops come to an end, and we start to see the first warm weather crops coming in second half of the month. We should have plenty of local items to incorporate into salads, including sugar snap and snow peas, cucumbers, broccoli, zucchini, and maybe by the end of the month some purple bell peppers and tomatoes. If June is cool, lettuce, spinach and salad greens should be available as long as weather permits. Salads make for easy, light meals that don’t take much time to put together, and they’re healthy.

Stop in and pick up some delicious summer fruit and local vegetables at the Co-op, and spend less time in the kitchen, and more time enjoying Summer.